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Hanns Sachs and the Work of Art in Psychoanalysis

The main contribution of Hanns Sachs was to have applied the thesis of psychoanalysis to the interpretation of works of art. He defined the latter as the fruit of a collective dream of civilization.

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Hanns Sachs was one of those psychoanalysts who did not correspond with the traditional mold of the first generation of this current. Although his name is not so well known, he made important contributions to the doctrine of Freud. In particular, he was an excellent educator of psychoanalysts and also applied psychoanalytic theory to the work of art.

Unlike others of his peers, Hanns Sachs had basically a casual attitude towards life. This allowed him to adapt gracefully to various situations and generated sympathy, but he also came to elicit a strong comment from Freud about it. He had great weakness for love seduction and was a lover of good wine and good food. Likewise, a passionate about literature.

“Friend, the true work of the poet is to write and interpret dreams. He believes that the safest illusion lives in the dream of human beings. The art of seeing and poetizing is telling the truth of dreaming.”

-Hanns Sachs-

Hanns Sachs is also considered one of the most excellent biographers of Sigmund Freud. In this regard he published some memoirs in 1945, in which his great affection and admiration for the father of psychoanalysis was recorded. That text was a must for those who later wrote the history of this humanistic current.

Hanns Sachs, a lawyer who was a psychoanalyst

Hanns Sachs, like most first-generation psychoanalysts, came from a Jewish family. His father was a very prescient jurist, who enjoyed a solid economic position. Sachs was born in Vienna (Austria), on January 10, 1881, studied law at the University of Vienna and received his doctorate in 1904.

He practiced his profession without problem, but when reading The Interpretation of Dreams, by Sigmund Freud, he felt a growing passion for psychoanalysis. It was so much the impact that caused him, that he wanted to deepen the doctrine. Therefore, he began to attend Freud’s conferences regularly. One day, he decided to visit him and brought him as a gift a translation of the Barracks of barracks, by Rudyard Kipling.

Thus began a friendship that lasted forever. Hanns Sachs was fascinated with Sigmund Freud. He began to frequent it and in 1909 it became part of the famous Psychological Society of Wednesdays. There he became an orthodox follower of Freud’s theses, until the end of his days.

Psychoanalysis, pedagogy and art

Hanns Sachs also began to be part of the so-called “Secret Committee”. He was, without a doubt, one of the closest disciples of Freud. Together with Otto Rank he founded Imago magazine and became its editor since 1912. This magazine, emblematic of psychoanalysis, sought to extend Freud’s theses to all fields of the social sciences.

In 1920, Sachs settled in Berlin. There he began to carry out activities as a teacher of new psychoanalysts. Through his hands passed countless aspirants who saw in him a great pedagogue. In fact, Erich Fromm did his didactic psychoanalysis with Hanns Sachs. At that time the regulation of this work was very lax. That’s why it was not uncommon for Sachs to go on vacation with her patients and their patients.

He felt so much admiration for Freud, that he had his bust put in his office, in front of the couch where he attended to his patients. In 1925 he advised, together with Karl Abraham, the writing of a screenplay for silent films. The result was the movie The Mysteries of the Soul, which is considered the first film inspired by the Freudian postulates.

A faithful disciple

Hanns Sachs was invited by the Psychoanalytic Society of Boston to give some lectures, in 1932. He took advantage of the situation to settle in the United States, as he sensed the atrocities of the gradual rise of the Nazis. He also knew that the American psychoanalysts were suspicious of those who exercised the analysis without being doctors. So he demanded that he be guaranteed eight sessions per day.

Although he did not stop having friction with orthodox psychoanalysts, Hanns Sachs was one of the emigrant psychoanalysts who best adapted to life in the United States. He managed to consolidate a comfortable life with luxuries. That is why Freud, in one of his letters, refers to him in harsh terms, pointing out: “the vulgar side that had always been present in him has become even clearer. A true new rich, fat, self-satisfied, pretentious, snobby, enthralled by America or seduced by the great successes he has achieved “.

Despite this, the loving biography that Hanns Sachs wrote about Freud shows that he always loved and admired his great teacher. Likewise, he was quoted directly by Freud in the work Psychology of the masses and on another occasion I call him “the only friend I have in the United States”. Sachs died on January 10, 1947 in Boston.

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